Listen Lissa! (Chicken Advice Column) August 16, 2013

Listen Lissa!

That’s the working name of my new chicken advice column, sort of like a “Dear Abby” (but for chickens!), being launched here today.

Listen Lissa

Does this look advice column-y? I may have to come up with a different photo…

“Listen Lissa! I have a problem with my daughter’s favorite pet hen…”

If you are a regular reader of the My Pet Chicken blog–or if yo’re familiar with our website–you probably already know we have an extensive Chicken Help section, in addition to a free Chicken Care E-book with basic care instructions, and even a free Incubation and Hatching Guide with all the basics. That free information provides good advice for most frequently asked questions. If you’ve been reading our blog regularly, you’ll probably also remember that the My Pet Chicken Handbook—published by Rodale—is being released early next year. Our book goes into a lot more detail than our free ebook (more than 200 pages, rather than just nine in the free version!), and will be filled with My Pet Chicken’s beautiful chicken photography, as well as some amazing egg recipes…  and it even includes recipes you can make for your pet chickens–how cool is that? Most importantly, it includes information about what NOT to do, information that can help you avoid common mistakes.

But even with all that out there, when you have specific questions about your personal flock or your personal situation, you may want a personal answer. You can always phone My Pet Chicken toll-free at 1.888.460.1529 during business hours and speak to someone in customer service. (What’s cool about that is that because we telecommute at My Pet Chicken, we can employ people who really keep backyard chickens and love their pets, rather than having to settle for people who happen to live near the office! You’ll get good advice from customer service. However, if you want a personal answer from me, or if you think an answer to your question could help other chicken people or other flocks–you may want to be featured in the “Listen Lissa” advice column.

How to write Listen Lissa

To submit a question for consideration, please email customer service at, with the subject line “Listen Lissa!” You can also attach photographs to be featured alongside your query… for instance if you have an “is this normal?!” sort of question, or if you want to send in a picture of your coop, flock, or the bird you’re asking about. (By sending us a photo with a “Listen Lissa” query, you agree that we may publish your photo in the blog.)

We won’t identify you personally, and emails that are signed with a clever acronym will be given special consideration. As an example, a question about overeating could be signed Her Eating Never Stops (or HENS). You can also sign with a first name and last initial if you’re not feeling creative. Your question may be edited to remove identifying information, or for brevity, or to correct spelling/grammatical errors. I promise I’ll try not to introduce any new errors, hahaha!

Not all questions submitted will be featured in the Listen Lissa column. (Those that aren’t will be responded to by our regular, and fabulous, customer service staff, so you WILL get an answer.)

Let’s try this out, folks! It sounds like fun. Plus, when you submit to Listen Lissa and your query is featured in the blog, you can get additional input from commenters. I always like to say that if you ask five smart chicken keepers for advice, you can expect to get six or seven right answers, so this column will be a good place for you to share your experience, whether you have a question yourself or not. What do you think?

A Roz Con Pollo August 16th, 2013

I’ve tried many types of laying crumbles & pellets for my 7 grown hens. They yell at me and make a mess digging in the food. I can tell they do NOT approve. They do eventually eat but I can tell they don’t enjoy it. I give them treats 3-4 times a week after mealtime. ( dried meal worms, cukes, melon & fresh cob corn are the favorite treats.) They’re fed once in the early morning and again 2-3 hours before sundown. I’ve tried commercial and local organic hen foods. Is there any healthful hen food out there that’s also tasty?

Adam R February 17th, 2016

I message you out of dire desperation. Let me explain my situation.

I hatched 9 chicks about 5-6 weeks ago. They are all healthy and happy.

The last chick to hatch has had some issues.

First thing I noticed was it had a curled toe that sort of curled underneath its foot. After some quick research I found out how to splint the foot, I did this and the toe is now where it should be, That is not why I am messaging you in need of your expert advice.

After the toe healed we started to notice the chick always had its foot out to the side, at a 90 degree angle to its other foot/leg which is perfectly fine. This puzzled us. We immediately thought this was the common “spraddle leg” or “splayed leg” We treated it by making a strap that ties the legs together; as seen online. We had no success. I then continued to research leg problems in newly hatched chickens. I then performed many inspections of the Achilles tendon at the hock area. I could not see any problems nor could i feel anything out of place. It seems that the either the hock or maybe the hip itself has gown in a twisted fashion. If you could share any thoughts or advice it would be greatly appreciated. At this point i don’t know what to do. The chick is growing, eating and drinking, but has a hard time walking and never seems to stand up for any period of time. Now its leg is ever further towards the rear than it ever was and we worry about it. I would hate to cull the chick because it seems to be living happily and without pain, but I am not sure how this will negatively affect the bird as it matures.

Thank you so much for you time and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Lissa February 18th, 2016

Hi, Adam–so sorry to hear about your baby chick! Keep in mind that I am not a veterinarian… and even a veterinarian can’t diagnose long distance. An in-person exam could make the diagnosis clear, where anything ventures from afar is just a guess. So I would recommend getting your chick to a veterinarian, if possible, and ask about perosis. Perosis is a condition where the Achilles has slipped out of place. I know you mentioned that you’ve tried to check, but Without an educated touch, you may not be able to detect it, especially if the tendon slip leads to warping of the leg bones. That can happen because a baby chick’s bones are not always completely hardened when they’re first hatched (which is why you can fix things like splayed legs and curled toes with a simple splint). Basically, the slipped tendon would be acting to splint the leg in a way it’s not meant to go. A vet can sometimes address this problem with early treatment. But take heart, if it IS too late for effective treatment, even a chicken with one leg can often have a long, productive life. Teddy Roosevelt very famously had a one-legged rooster among his menagerie at the White House. Unless your little chick is actively suffering or in pain, a handicap shouldn’t shorten her life. In fact many special needs chickens become the favorite, most friendly birds in the flock. (For an example, check out our blog for posts about my hen Hildy, who was blind.) I wish you the best, and hope your little one will be okay!

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